John Lawton Paletas
| Credit: John Lawton

The kids were off on their first ride, wearing straw cowboy hats, that morning three years ago. The adults at Colorado Trails Ranch were still learning how to get on and off our steeds when we heard someone bellowing. Across the muck in the riding ring, an Appaloosa lay on its back, pawing the air. Pinned underneath him was the Massachusetts mother of three whom I’d been chatting with minutes earlier. Evidently, she’d ridden as a child, and, hoping to assert control from the get-go, had pulled back hard on the reins. Her horse reared and then toppled.

As she was carried off on a stretcher—with a fractured hip, her husband later reported—we dudes couldn’t help but wonder if we’d picked the right place for a family reunion. This was an experimental getaway for the 13 of us—my husband and his three sisters, plus mates and kids. Growing up, they’d all gathered every July with grandparents and cousins at the Minnesota lake resort where their grandmother summered as a girl, a ritual meant to be carried on. But where?The lake resort had been sold, and another Minnesota spot we’d tried hadn’t measured up.

Finding a meeting ground for a group of varying ages, budgets, and fussinesses is a huge challenge—which is why, in this issue, we spotlight clans with clever approaches to vacationing en masse.

I know that herding my side of the family off to a riding resort would be out of the question. We want quiet, a prime beach, and a town to poke around in—a combo we’ve found at the Green Turtle Club in the Bahamas, and a roomy rental house on Maui. But for my husband’s crew, the ranch was spot-on. The cousins, ages 5 to 14, had a delicious week of freedom—playing air hockey, ordering milk shakes at the house soda fountain, and collecting acorns while in the saddle. And for us parents there were long catch-ups over sloppy joes, siestas, fly-fishing lessons (I caught the soft side of my own wrist), and woodland rides on generally docile nags.

We returned to Colorado Trails last year with protective riding helmets, plus my husband’s mother—no longer the galloping type, but happy to take walks on foot and horseback—and we hope to get back. Still, wherever we reunite next, we’ll know this: it’s always wise to keep the reins somewhat loose.

My Finds

Welcome to the brain-freezing world of paletas, Mexican-style fresh fruit popsicles! You can find them in the freezer case at most Mexican bodegas. They’re also widely sold from street carts in Latino neighborhoods, and at these shops:


La Michoacana Ice Cream & Bakery
504 Broadway, Vallejo, CA; 707/649-2140.

La Mich Paleterìa
1026 Huntington Dr, Duarte, CA; 626/359-6333.

New York

Paleterìa La Michoacana
407 South Broadway, Yonkers, NY; 914/709-0439.


Las Paletas
2907 12 Ave. S., Nashville, TN; 615/386-2101.

N.B. Plumgood food ( delivers paletas.

  • Arroz con leche (rice pudding on a stick)
  • Avocado
  • Esquimal (Eskimo!)
  • Fig
  • Gazpacho
  • Guava
  • Mamey
  • Pepino con chile (cucumber, watermelon, and lime, seasoned with chile powder)
  • Pine nut
  • Sweet potato
  • Finicky kids, take heart: there is also strawberry, grape, and banana!